NBC announced the retirement of NFL broadcaster John Madden today in a move so sudden it would be deserving of a trademark "Boom!" from the big man himself.
Rather than taking a season-long victory lap on the network's Sunday night NFL broadcasts, the 73-year-old is stepping down from the booth, effective immediately. His final telecast was this year's Super Bowl, which saw the Pittsburgh Steelers tough out a win against the postseason underdog Arizona Cardinals.
Although Madden was enormously popular for his on-the-fly analysis of games, his expertise drawn from his years as a coach with the Oakland Raiders, and his occasional tangents onto subjects like "cankles" or "great coaches with hats," he also left a significant mark on the gaming industry. John Madden Football debuted on the Apple II and Commodore 64 in 1989 and quickly broke away from the pack of other pigskin sims upon moving to the Sega Genesis the next year. In all, more than 100 versions of Electronic Arts' Madden NFL games have been made spanning virtually every major system released in the last 20 years (sorry, Dreamcast).
As of press time, Electronic Arts had not responded to requests for comment on how the retirement will change plans for the Madden NFL series going forward. In 2005, EA signed a "multiyear" agreement to use the former coach's moniker on its football games, though the exact length of that deal was not disclosed. If the series will change due to the retirement, it might not happen until next year. Madden NFL 10 has already been announced with an August 14 release date.
Madden, who never actually stepped on the field as an NFL player after a knee injury, coached the Raiders to a Super Bowl in 1976. After retiring from the sidelines with the second-highest winning percentage of any coach (behind the legendary Vince Lombardi), he moved on to become an NFL analyst and has won several Emmy awards. The heavy travel demanded by Madden's broadcast job was aggravated by a severe fear of flying, leading the analyst to drive from destination to destination in a tricked-out RV called "The Maddencruiser."
[UPDATE]: Electronic Arts released a statement from EA Sports president Peter Moore saying that the publisher's football series will keep its ties to the Madden name.
"We're excited to see his legacy live on in the 21st year of Madden NFL football, and well beyond," Moore said. "It's been a privilege for EA Sports to have had the strong relationship we've had with John for more than two decades and one that will continue into the future."